Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 15 17

Have you ever sat in a training session wondering whether you could do better than the trainer?

Making the transition is not as hard as you may think, as three former managers told Faye Rowe

'I get a buzz out of helping others'

Katy Gordon used to redesign delivery of care as a coronary heart disease partnership programme director across the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster health economy and was based at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. She is now a freelance life coach to many of her former colleagues and other health managers, as well as an independent nurse consultant.

'I spent a long time designing care services for the health service but eventually got fed up with the pressurised environment and restrictive culture that came with the job, ' says Ms Gordon.

'I frequently ended up doing team-building sessions with my colleagues as part of my role and got a buzz out of helping others. That is when I decided to start holding sessions on a one-toone basis.

'Since my coaching business is only just starting to take off it is a little early to say how my working life has changed. The main difference, which is a real stimulus for me, is that people who want me to coach them are doing so because they want to make changes - be it in their personal or professional life - or are in need of a complete life review. This is often very different to working with individuals and teams who frequently feel that change is being imposed on them, not necessarily for the better.

'A common problem for middle managers is that they feel they are asked to do too much, that they are not really happy with their working lives and feel undervalued. Coaching them to find out what they really want out of life helps them to make decisions, often between choosing a slower pace of life or the powerful career they first embarked on. I can also help with management, leadership or communication skills but the majority of people are striving to strike a better work-life balance.

'Often for health managers, the personal side of their lives gets squeezed and I can help them get that back.

'I recently teamed up with a coaching colleague, Andy Ruckley, to deliver training and coaching to teams of people for both personal and organisational development.

'Our purpose is two-fold: to facilitate both the managers' and organisation's learning, and to achieve identified business and organisational objectives. I offer sessions to anyone who needs them but a lot of my clients do tend to be former colleagues from the NHS.

'As I have just started up, I am generally coaching around six or eight people a week, although this is increasing all the time. My goal for the near future is to develop my client base.'

See Good Management, page 37.

'I have no nine-to-five'

Brenda Sawyer worked in general practice in Southampton before taking a master's degree in healthcare at Exeter University, which led to a career as an educationalist and trainer. She is now a principal lecturer at University College Winchester and tutors GPs around the mid Wessex and south west Hampshire region.

'While studying, I had the opportunity to undertake funded research for the university and, coincidentally, was asked to take on some training at the same time. It was an exciting offer, so I began running courses for the graduate medical school in Exeter. I was appointed as the area's only non-GP general practitioner tutor, organising postgraduate training from University College Winchester's primary healthcare education department.' At the same time, Ms Sawyer began organising training for practice managers, as well as helping to run the Institute of Healthcare Management's 'managing in health and social care' accreditation programme for managers across the region.

'People do not stay in one job for life now, ' comments Ms Sawyer. 'There are more people moving across and around the NHS and probably more people are going into training than ever before. There are certainly a lot of independent management consultants cropping up now.

'Being an educationalist actually gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I enjoy seeing people develop their own careers and being a part of that, being able to motivate them to change as a result of educational activities.' She admits, however, that becoming a trainer requires a different skills set to that of a manager.

'Confidence is not a huge part of my personality and I still do not like being in the limelight - particularly having to stand up and speak - so that was definitely something I had to deal with in order to do the job. I enjoy tutoring, however, which is a lot different as it is done on a one-to-one and small group basis.

'I also enjoy the flexibility I have as a result of working from home. I used to work nationally but it became very intense so now I only work locally, which suits me better. I do not really have a timetable and every day and week can be completely different. I have no nine-to-five and work only when the work is there but this allows me to spend time doing personal activities that I probably would not be able to do if I worked in 'normal' NHS employment.

'My main aim is to continue to do what I am doing but I am also working to develop leadership, coaching and mentoring programmes in the area.'

'I can influence care from a different perspective'

While working on the wards at a community hospital in Blackpool, ward sister Christine Al-Sharifi was given the opportunity for a secondment in the training department, teaching mostly resuscitation and NVQ training. She now manages the training department at Fylde primary care trust and also works across Blackpool and Wyre PCTs.

'It was an excellent opportunity for me, which came at the perfect time, ' insists Ms Al-Sharifi. 'I jumped at it because I had experience working in areas where learning and development was really valued and saw it as a chance to make a difference.

'I was lucky because I had some really great role models who inspired me to make the change and to help give as much as I could back to the health service and patient care.

'The practical implications of the job meant I didn't have to do shift or weekend work any more, which was a massive change. You feel like you are doing a lot more though, because you are in control of your diary, rather than having someone come in and take everything off your hands when your shift ends.

'If I want to work from home one day, I can easily arrange it and because I have a small family, this suits my lifestyle.

'The trust I work for is very involved in Improving Working Lives, but I do not think I would get that degree of flexibility if I were working on the wards, although they are taking steps to achieve that.' But Ms Al-Sharifi is not entirely free from bureaucracy: 'Being a trainer is not without its frustrations, however.

You still have piles of paperwork waiting for you and targets to be met, but the only downside for me is that you do not have direct contact with the patients. I miss them sometimes but I get to influence their care from a different perspective. As well as holding training days I am maintaining my registration as a nurse, which I am extremely proud of and do not intend to let it slip.

'I think I have the best job in the trust. I get to see people develop every day, which is very satisfying because I know it will help to improve patient care. It is actually quite humbling sometimes when you see how far people you train have come, but you only realise this if you sit back and take stock once in a while. Working in the training department is an excellent opportunity to be both proactive and positive about learning and help to provide better care as well.

'The NHS needs people who can be good trainers - so if you are thinking of making a move into training, my advice would be to go for it.'


If you are thinking of making a career move, it is wise to carry out some simple checks.

Make a career 'graph' by plotting each post you have held along the bottom with the degree of satisfaction this post gave you. The higher the degree of satisfaction the more that type of post is suitable for you.

Always seek advice and guidance from someone in a similar role as the one that you are drawn to in order to find out the good and bad points about the job.

Get a mentor to support you, as it helps to share thoughts and feelings about the job.

Network with others in similar positions - it helps to share the workload and stops you from re-inventing the wheel.

Always ask for an informal visit before applying so you can find out more about the job.

Do a career management inventory.

It involves choosing eight words from a selection of 20, which could identify whether you are a 'contacts' person, an 'organisation loyalty' person, a 'specialist' person or a 'task force' person.

Cheryl Swan is head of learning and development at Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Hospitals trust.